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ROYAL ASCOT: Churchill primed for O'Brien's 20-year anniversary
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ROYAL ASCOT: Churchill primed for O'Brien's 20-year anniversary
on 20 June 2017
It has been 20 years on since Aidan O'Brien's first winner at Royal Ascot and the Ballydoyle trainer will be looking to celebrate that anniversary with an eighth win in the St James's Palace Stakes

AIDAN O'Brien reports Churchill's preparation to have gone to plan ahead of his bid for a fifth successive Group 1 triumph in Tuesday's St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The son of Galileo broke his maiden at this meeting 12 months ago in the Chesham Stakes and since then has gone from strength to strength.

"We were delighted with him at Newmarket and again when he won at the Curragh," said O'Brien ahead of another leg of the Qipco British Champion Series.

"Everything has gone fine since then. He's very straightforward and he should be happy on the ground. There are lot of good horses in the race and we have total respect for them all."

It is 20 years since the first of O'Brien's 55 Royal Ascot winners and the thirst for more glory is bigger than ever, but the Ballydoyle handler is keen to deflect the praise.

"It doesn't feel like 20 years ago, it's been brilliant," the 47-year-old said.

"It's a lot of hard work by a lot of people and we are very grateful to everybody. We are a very small part of the team and are privileged to be part of it.

"Royal Ascot is an unbelievable meeting and I think it's something that everyone looks forward to every year. It's great to be able to have the horses to compete there and we really enjoy it."

Richard Hannon's Barney Roy had genuine excuses behind Churchill at Newmarket and his trainer is confident he can get a good deal closer with a clear run.

"He had a nice breeze over seven furlongs at Kempton last week and James Doyle was delighted with him," said Hannon.

"We pinpointed Royal Ascot after his run in the 2000 Guineas and have never been in a hurry with him. He became very unbalanced when he went through the dip at Newmarket and, in the circumstances, Barney Roy did exceptionally well to finish only a length behind Churchill.

"He stumbled so badly that I thought he had broken a leg. He ducked down and somehow managed to stay upright before finishing so well.

"Ascot will suit him much better as you don't have the ups and downs of Newmarket and he was only having the third run of his life there, so we will know more this time.

"He has come out really well from the Guineas where, with a stronger pace, he would have finished closer. The mile at Ascot is right up his street and I can see him putting it up to Churchill in a big way."


Wesley Ward has an inkling Lady Aurelia can take Royal Ascot by storm for the second successive year when she faces the cream of Europe's sprinters in the King's Stand Stakes on Tuesday.

The daughter of Scat Daddy looked special when spread-eagling the opposition in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes last year, but her juvenile campaign ended with a blip in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes, when she was found to have bled after suffering the only defeat of her career so far.

She had little difficulty dealing with her rivals on her comeback at Keeneland in April and delighted Ward in a racecourse gallop at Ascot last week.

Ward said: "Lady Aurelia is a true champion. She is a sweetheart year round and when she gets to the track, she puts it all in.

"Last year, she was working better than any two-year-old I had previously brought over so I knew I had something special. I expected she would win, but not the dominating performance which was special.

"I was a little worried that she did a little too much in her gallop last week. She had a bleed last fall. This year she has been perfect, but I have not asked her to do as much as she did then.

"So I was really, really relieved when the vet who scoped her said she was clean. She breezed superb, as if she trained there every day with her head down. I think she is going to run her A race.

It is another filly, Marsha, who spearheads the home defence and Sir Mark Prescott's charge also looks the real deal.

After lifting Europe's premier sprint prize, the Prix de l'Abbaye, on her final start in 2016, she showed she would be a formidable force this campaign when defying a 7lb penalty in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes art Newmarket.

"Winning the Palace House with a penalty is not done often and on that run she's better than last year, but now she's got to keep it going," said Prescott.

"She's very willing, very sound and very straightforward, except she will tank.

"The girl who looks after her, Sarah (Oliveira), rides her in all her work. Luke (Morris) gets on with her very well, but is not allowed to see her at home."

Of Lady Aurelia, Prescott joked: "In the days when we had Pivotal (winner of the King's Stand and Nunthorpe in 1996) at least we didn't have any horrid people coming from abroad!"

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